It is well-established that the climate crisis will be linked to adverse health effects such as asthma, food-borne and water-borne illnesses or physical injuries related to more frequent weather events in the coming years.
Recently, though, the conversation around climate change and health has shifted to include mental health as well.
The mental health impacts of climate change can manifest in numerous ways, including:
- PTSD as a result of the trauma from natural disasters;
- Psychological stress and anxiety about the future, including when it comes to family-planning;
- Loss of income and related stress, particularly in rural, agricultural and indigenous communities;
- The creation of 140 million climate migrants and climate refugees by 2050 as people are forced to leave their homes due to the effects of climate change.
I have been feeling increasingly anxious about the climate crisis, and I thought you might be too. So I decided to sit down and think about some of the ways that we can stay optimistic in light of it all. I was glad to see on my recent Instagram poll that you are interested in more general sustainability content, because this is a post I have been working on for some time.
1. Take Action.
Donate to organizations that are leading the fight against the climate crisis. Even a small donation can help organizations more effectively deliver on their mission, and I believe this is the single-most important thing any of us can do. Some organizations worth considering include:
- NRDC: The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect the earth – its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which all life depends. (This is one of the organizations that I personally donate to.)
- 350: 350 is working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all. One of the most important aspects of this organization is its focus on justice and the recognition that the climate crisis disproportionately affects those who have done the least to cause it.
- Greenpeace: Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems. (This is the other organization that I personally donate to, as I think we need provocative and bold activism when it comes to fighting climate change).
- Story of Stuff: It started with a short, online movie and became a movement. The world has a problem with stuff: we have too much of it, too much of it is toxic and we don’t share it very well. Story of Stuff focuses on the solutions.
- Environmental Defense Fund: In the 1960s, the Environmental Defense Fund went to court on behalf of the environment to ban DDT – an action that was unheard of at the time. And they continue to tackle environmental problems with bold solutions.
2. Embrace conscious consumerism (but also understand its limitations).
Here on my blog, I strongly advocate for conscious consumerism through fashion. I believe that making smart choices in what, when and how much we purchase helps us spread the word about our role in the climate crisis while also empowering us. That said, we cannot shop our way out of climate change.
Think about which aspects of the climate crisis most move you, and think about how your individual habits could make a difference. For me, I obviously choose to wear sustainable and secondhand clothing when possible, and follow a plant-based diet. For you, conscious consumerism may be investing in glass jars to use in the bulk section of your supermarket, committing to look for clothing secondhand first or choosing to walk or bike when possible.
Feeling empowered, even if it is just in small ways, can help allay some of the helplessness you may be feeling about the climate crisis. That’s why I think conscious consumerism is an important part of the solution (but it is just a part).
3. Read good news.
Try to give yourself a mental break by reading or watching media outlets focused on delivering good news. Some of my favorites include:
- Treehugger: Treehugger offers quick and easy reads on environmental news. I love their morning newsletter, which is often lighthearted and regularly features tiny homes, wildlife photography and sustainable fashion news.
- Upbeat example: thredUp gives brands access to secondhand fashion market.
- Live Kindly: This site is focused on vegan and plant-based news and all the awesome things happening in that space!
- Upbeat example: Vegan bacon sales spike 113% so far this year.
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works with businesses, governments and academia to accelerate our transition to a circular economy. They offer a great assortment of news and case studies on their site that can help you feel more optimistic about the progress the world is making.
- Upbeat example: An open access circular supply chain for fashion. (I am obsessed with this case study! Definitely give it a read.)
- TED Talks: Okay, we all know TED Talks. But did you know they offer numerous playlists focused on the environment and sustainability, with talks that are all incredibly solutions-oriented? I find I always feel more optimistic after listening to a TED Talk while driving.
- Upbeat example: These bacteria eat plastic.
4. Build a sense of climate community.
One of the things that has really helped me stay optimistic about the climate is the friendships I’ve made online, at work and through volunteer events. Spending time with like-minded people who also care about the climate crisis can leave you feeling hopeful about what’s ahead.
Did I miss anything? What helps you stay optimistic about the future of our planet?